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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fear of Food

If you've been following along, none of those temper flare-ups I witnessed this week resulted in food fights, but I have noticed some different reactions to food over lunch meetings, and that got me thinking...

We humans spend a lot of time in the pursuit of food no matter where we live. If we aren't physically engaged in finding, growing or preparing it, we are spending a lot of our income on it. It all comes back to "putting food in our mouths" in seems.

Our relationship with food seems rather complicated. It's a bit of a "love/hate" thing. We worry and suffer when we are lacking food. We also worry and suffer when we have too much food. We struggle to find the balance.

North American culture has really opened up to the dangers of food in the past few years. We are concerned with how it's grown, what's put into it, and how we are affected by it. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia have come out of the closet and effort has gone into finding ways to help people that suffer from such ailments. Much of this awareness, research and development has been very positive, but in my opinion, there may also be a negative side effect.  Perhaps we have increased our fear of food just a bit.

There actually is a word for "fear of food".  It's called cibophobia. Often people with this fear are misdiagnosed as having anorexia.  But unlike anorexia, where the fear is of the affects the food will have on body image, cibophobia is really fear of the food itself.  The symptoms of cibophobia all actually make good solid sense if kept in balance.  They include concern for highly perishable foods like mayonnaise and milk. It makes sense to be cautious of that, they can harbour deadly bacteria, but it's about concern versus fear. Another symptom is over-concern for expiry dates. Again, that makes sense, there is a reason to have that date on there, its' about concern and awareness versus fear and anxiety to the point of total avoidance that tips the scale. Another symptoms is avoiding certain food altogether perceiving them to present above-average risks to health.  Again, a point of fuzziness in my opinion.

Only a generation or so ago, if you wanted to loose or gain weight, which you likely did more for health reasons than for over-concern for appearance, you would be instructed to either eat less or more.  The foods you put into your body likely didn't change nearly as much as the amount. That seems to have changed.

We have a much greater variety of foods thanks to globalization among other things. As much as that has opened up our world and choices it seems to have increased the confusion as well.  You can find people and programs that promote diets including; fat-free, high-fat,  gluten free, dairy free, vegan, organic, sugar-free, no carbohydrates, all carbohydrates, etc. etc.  For every diet suggestion there is a "counter-suggestion". For many we have created "movements" to provide a certain healthier approach to food supply.

Many alternative health providers focus on diet as part of your overall approach to health.  Some will suggest you eat according to your dosha.   Some will suggest a very restrictive diet in an effort to find your "set point", slowly introducing foods back in to the mix once you've sorted out allergies, intolerance and sensitivities.  These approaches can all be helpful. Like everything though, I think it has to be about the balance.

I think all this focus on regimes and restrictions can contribute to your fear of food. I wonder if we are creating a generation with more than a little cibophobia. Efforts to restrict intake of certain food groups or items or ensure intake of others, needs to be balanced with pleasure, enjoyment, and perhaps availability. If you find yourself explaining or apologizing for your food choices, without anyone asking, you might be tipping the balance a bit. If you've asked for the ingredient list or the food preparation plan and the recipe before you choose your meal in a restaurant and you don't have a severe food allergy, I think you might be tipping the balance.  If you feel sick after eating an item you worry might have included an ingredient you've been trying to avoid for no reason other than it's "on your list", you might be tipping the balance. If you find yourself avoiding or feeling uncomfortable in social situations that involve food, feeling it would be rude not to partake, you might be tipping the balance.  It might just be that your efforts to eat healthy have turned into an obsession and cibophobia.

There are some Bach Flower essences that can help you find the food balance. Rock Water is the first that comes to mind. It's helpful for people that have become overly rigid in their approach to life. Often this involves severely restricting themselves in diet programs. Rock Water might help you relax your approach a bit so you can bring the concern over food choices back into balance.

Mimulus is the Bach Flower essence that is indicated for known fears. If you know you have tipped the balance to a real fear of certain foods, that isn't in your best interest, this Bach essence could be for you.

And then there's the Bach Flower essence Cerato.  It's helpful when you're lost your sense of trust in yourself. I believe we all intuitively know what foods are good for us and which we should avoid. I think it's a survival instinct that is most likely still intact- just buried pretty deep within us. I imagine this might not be a collective instinct but quite personal in nature. One person's dairy free diet might be perfectly right for them and totally wrong for another. Balance is a personal attribute. It is found from within, nourished from within and does not need external support. That's the healing nature of Cerato.

There are seven recipes in Sweet Shack & Bach Bar. Each recipe has ingredients that resonate with the chakra it is intended to soothe. One of the recipes happens to be gluten-free.  One of the recipes is dairy free. All of them can be made with organic ingredients.  None of them are sugar-free. All of them can be tweaked and modified. Some of them might remind you of your childhood. Some might soothe you. Some might comfort you. Whether they are good for you or not is an individual decision and should be made from a balanced, non-fearful place. I know and trust you can make the right decision.

I believe food can be joyful as well as sustaining. I believe it can bring people together in celebration. I think food can reveal our individualaity, and our culture. I think food should be honored rather than feared. I think food can help us find our balance.

Bon appetite!

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